If you were a channel controller…
I’d revive Play for Today. When I was a kid there was a single original drama on telly every week and we need more of that.
Is that what made you want to act?
Probably. I wanted to be an actress from when I was young. I remember watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – the TV version with Alec Guinness – and clearly thinking that was the kind of acting I wanted to do: really understated, so it looks like you’re not trying. You’ll notice that’s not the sort of acting I’m doing in The Spa!
So what drew you to the part of health-club manager Alison Crabbe in The Spa?
The fact that she’s quite unlikeable. The first scene I read made me laugh out loud. Then I read on and thought she was an enormously fun character because she’s so sour and cross at the world.
You played MP Nicola Murray in The Thick of It. Are you lamenting its demise?
I’d have it run on a weekly basis from here to eternity if it were up to me. So yes, I’m really missing it and I will go on mentioning that to Armando Iannucci every time I see him.
What programme can’t you miss?
Who Do You Think You Are? is my geeky passion. I’m fascinated by genealogy.
Have you considered volunteering for the next series?
Naturally, that’s why I’m dropping this enormous hint! I’d love to. My great-grandfather was a music hall entertainer and I managed recently to find a playbill from the 1920s listing him and his double-act partner – and that was such a thrill. He used to talk about it all the time when he was an old man but we’d never had any written evidence.
So showbiz runs in the blood?
It does and it doesn’t. We’re not an acting family. My great-grandfather was a miner who went off and became an entertainer for a few years to get out of the mines. He wasn’t a great showbusiness success story, but clearly loved it.
What’s embarrassed you?
Doing Björk’s song It’s Oh So Quiet for Let’s Dance for Comic Relief a couple of years ago. In my head I was dancing like Ginger Rogers; when I saw it back I was actually dancing like Ginger Rogers’ pet elephant in a bright orange windsock that made me look like a nine-year-old. Hideous.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I adore The Apprentice but I always feel I shouldn’t support reality shows when there’s so much drama that ought to be being made. I feel particularly guilty enjoying Young Apprentice because you’re sneering at adolescents.
What makes you cry?
As a mum I’m very vulnerable to anything where children are upset or having a rotten time of it. There are news stories I have to switch off because I think, “I can’t do anything about this and it’s just too painful to watch.”
What would you delete from your children’s watchlist?
I lose my sense of humour watching shows that are made up entirely of clips of people hurting themselves. I have to bite my tongue because my default attitude is to go all sucking-on-a-lemon about it.
Who was your first crush?
Peter Davison when he was in All Creatures Great and Small. I used to write his name all over my rough book. The first time I worked with him I stupidly confided in the producer, who told poor Peter the moment he walked through the door. He went blood red and evidently thought he had a stalker. Since then I’ve worked with him three or four times, so I hope he now knows that if I am stalking him, I’m not dangerous.
1. The Voice UK or Britain’s Got Talent? I don’t really like either.
2. EastEnders or Corrie? Neither.
3. Nigel Slater or Jamie Oliver? Nigel Slater.
4. TOWIE or Made in Chelsea? The fact that it’s supposed to be halfway between reality and drama baffles me.
5. Miranda Hart or Ruth Jones? Can I have them both please? I can’t choose between them.